The Squire's Sixpence by Mary E.
Patience Mather was saying the seven-multiplication
table, when she heard a heavy step in the entry.
"That is Squire Bean," whispered her friend, Martha
Joy, who stood at her elbow.
Patience stopped short in horror. Her especial
bugbear in mathematics was eight-times-seven; she was
coming toward it fast—could she remember it, with old
Squire Bean looking at her?
"Go on," said the teacher severely. She was quite
young, and also stood in some awe of Squire Bean, but
she did not wish her pupils to discover it, so she
pretended to ignore that step in the entry. Squire Bean
walked with a heavy gilt-headed cane which always went
clump, clump, at every step; beside he shuffled—one
could always tell who was coming.
"Seven times seven," begun Patience trembling—then
the door opened—there stood Squire Bean.
The teacher rose promptly. She tried to be very easy
and natural, but her pretty round cheeks turned red and
white by turns.
"Good-morning, Squire Bean," said she. Then she
placed a chair on the platform for him.
"Good-morning," said he, and seated himself in
a lumbering way—he was rather stiff with rheumatism. He
was a large old man in a green camlet cloak with brass
"You may go on with the exercises," said he to the
teacher, after he had adjusted himself and wiped his
face solemnly with a great red handkerchief.
"Go on, Patience," said the teacher.
So Patience piped up in her little weak soprano:
"Seven times seven are forty-nine. Eight times seven
are"—She stopped short. Then she begun over again—"Eight
The class with toes on the crack all swayed forward
to look at her, the pupils at the foot stepped off till
they swung it into a half-circle. Hands came up and
"Back on the line!" said the teacher sternly. Then
they stepped back, but the hands indicative of superior
knowledge still waved, the coarse jacket-sleeves and the
gingham apron-sleeves slipping back from the thin
"Eight times seven are eighty-nine," declared
Patience desperately. The hands shook frantically, some
of the owners stepped off the line again in their
Patience's cheeks were red as poppies, her eyes were
full of tears.
"You may try once more, Patience," said the teacher,
who was distressed herself. She feared lest Squire Bean
might think that it was her fault, and that she was not
a competent teacher, because Patience Mather did not
So Patience started again—"Eight times seven"—She
paused for a mighty mental effort—she must get it right
this time. "Six"—she began feebly.
"What!" said Squire Bean suddenly, in a deep voice
which sounded like a growl.
Then all at once poor little Patience heard a whisper
sweet as an angel's in her ear: "Fifty-six."
"Eight times seven are fifty-six," said she
"Right," said the teacher with a relieved look. The
hands went down. Patience stood with her neat little
shoes toeing out on the crack. It was over. She had not
failed before Squire Bean. For a few minutes, she could
think of nothing but that.
The rest of the class had their weak points, moreover
their strong points, overlooked in the presence of the
company. The first thing Patience knew, ever so many had
missed in the nine-table, and she had gone up to the
Standing there, all at once a terrible misgiving
seized her. "I wouldn't have gone to the head if I
hadn't been told," she thought to herself. Martha was
next below her; she knew that question in the nines, her
hand had been up, so had John Allen's and Phœbe Adams'.
This was the last class before recess. Patience went
soberly out in the yard with the other girls. There was
a little restraint over all the scholars. They looked
with awe at the Squire's horse and chaise. The horse was
tied after a novel fashion, an invention of the Squire's
own. He had driven a gimlet into the schoolhouse wall,
and tied his horse to it with a stout rope. Whenever the
Squire drove he carried with him his gimlet, in case
there should be no hitching-post. Occasionally
house-owners rebelled, but it made no difference; the
next time the Squire had occasion to stop at their
premises there was another gimlet-hole in the wall. Few
people could make their way good against Squire Bean's.
There were a great many holes in the schoolhouse
walls, for the Squire made frequent visits; he was one
of the committee and considered himself very necessary
for the well-being of the school. Indeed if he had
frankly spoken his mind, he would probably have
admitted that in his estimation the school could not be
properly kept one day without his assistance.
'WHAT!' SAID SQUIRE BEAN SUDDENLY.
Patience stood with her back against the school
fence, and watched the others soberly. The girls wanted
her to play "Little Sally Waters sitting in the sun,"
but she said no, she didn't want to play.
Martha took hold of her arm and tried to pull her
into the ring, but she held back.
"What is the matter?" said Martha.
"Nothing," Patience said, but her face was full of
trouble. There was a little wrinkle between her
reflective brown eyes, and she drew in her under lip
after a way she had when disturbed.
When the bell rang, the scholars filed in with the
greatest order and decorum. Even the most frisky boys
did no more than roll their eyes respectfully in the
Squire's direction as they passed him, and they tiptoed
on their bare feet in the most cautious manner.
The Squire sat through the remaining exercises, until
it was time to close the school.
"You may put up your books," said the teacher. There
was a rustle and clatter, then a solemn hush. They all
sat with their arms folded, looking expectantly at
Squire Bean. The teacher turned to him. Her cheeks were
very red, and she was very dignified, but her voice
shook a little.
"Won't you make some remarks to the pupils?" said
Then the Squire rose and cleared his throat. The
scholars did not pay much attention to what he said,
although they sat still, with their eyes riveted on his
face. But when, toward the close of his remarks, he put
his hand in his pocket, and a faint jingling was heard,
a thrill ran over the school.
The Squire pulled out two silver sixpences, and held
them up impressively before the children. Through a hole
in each of them dangled a palm-leaf strand; and the
Squire's own initial was stamped on both.
"Thomas Arnold may step this way," said the Squire.
Thomas Arnold had acquitted himself well in
geography, and to him the Squire duly presented one of
Thomas bobbed, and pattered back to his seat with all
his mates staring and grinning at him.
Then Patience Mather's heart jumped—Squire Bean was
bidding her step that way, on account of her going to
the head of the arithmetic class. She sat still. There
was a roaring in her ears. Squire Bean spoke again. Then
the teacher interposed. "Patience," said she, "did you
not hear what Squire Bean said? Step this way."
Then Patience rose and dragged slowly down the aisle.
She hung her head, she dimly heard Squire Bean speaking;
then the sixpence touched her hand. Suddenly Patience
looked up. There was a vein of heroism in the little
girl. Not far back, some of her kin had been brave
fighters in the Revolution. Now their little descendant
went marching up to her own enemy in her own way. She
spoke right up before Squire Bean.
"I'd rather you'd give it to some one else," said she
with a curtesy. "It doesn't belong to me. I wouldn't
have gone to the head if I hadn't cheated."
Patience's cheeks were white, but her eyes flashed.
Squire Bean gasped, and turned it into a cough. Then he
began asking her questions. Patience answered
unflinchingly. She kept holding the sixpence toward him.
Finally he reached out and gave it a little push
"Keep it," said he; "keep it, keep it. I don't give
it to you for going to the head, but because you are an
honest and truthful child."
Patience blushed pink to her little neck. She
curtesied deeply and returned to her seat, the silver
sixpence dangling from her agitated little hand. She put
her head down on her desk, and cried, now it was all
over, and did not look up till school was dismissed, and
Martha Joy came and put her arm around her and comforted
The two little girls were very close friends, and
were together all the time which they could snatch out
of school hours. Not long after the presentation of the
sixpence, one night after school, Patience's mother
wanted her to go on an errand to Nancy Gookin's hut.
Nancy Gookin was an Indian woman, who did a good many
odd jobs for the neighbors. Mrs. Mather was expecting
company, and she wanted her to come the next day and
assist her about some cleaning.
Patience was usually willing enough, but to-night she
demurred. In fact, she was a little afraid of the Indian
woman, who lived all alone in a little hut on the edge
of some woods. Her mother knew it, but it was a foolish
fear, and she did not encourage her in it.
"There is no sense in your being afraid of Nancy,"
she said with some severity. "She's a good woman, if she
is an Injun, and she is always to be seen in the
meeting-house of a Sabbath day."
As her mother spoke, Patience could see Nancy's dark
harsh old face peering over the pew, where she and some
of her nation sat together, Sabbath days, and the image
made her shudder in spite of its environments. However,
she finally put on her little sunbonnet and set forth.
It was a lovely summer twilight; she had only about a
quarter of a mile to go, but her courage failed her more
and more at every step. Martha Joy lived on the way.
When she reached her house, she stopped and begged her
to go with her. Martha was obliging; under ordinary
circumstances she would have gone with alacrity, but
to-night she had a hard toothache. She came to the door
with her face all tied up in a hop-poultice. "I'm 'fraid
I can't go," she said dolefully.
But Patience begged and begged. "I'll spend my
sixpence that uncle Joseph gave me, and I'll buy you a
whole card of peppermints," said she finally, by way of
That won the day. Martha got few sweets, and if there
was anything she craved, it was the peppermints, which
came, in those days, in big beautiful cards, to be
broken off at will. And to have a whole card!
So poor Martha tied her little napping sunbonnet over
her swollen cheeks, and went with Patience to see Nancy
Gookin, who received the message thankfully, and did not
do them the least harm in the world.
Martha had really a very hard toothache. She did not
sleep much that night for all the hop-poultice, and she
went to school the next day feeling tired and cross. She
was a nervous little girl, and never bore illness very
well. But to-day she had one pleasant anticipation. She
thought often of that card of peppermints. It had
cheered her somewhat in her uneasy night. She thought
that Patience would surely bring them to school. She
came early herself and watched for her. She entered
quite late, just before the bell rang. Martha ran up to
her. "I haven't got the peppermints," said Patience. She
had been crying.
Martha straightened up: "Why not?"
The tears welled out of Patience's eyes. "I can't
find that sixpence anywhere."
The tears came into Martha's eyes too. She looked as
dignified as her poulticed face would allow. "I never
knew you told fibs, Patience Mather," said she. "I don't
believe my mother will want me to go with you any more."
Just then the bell rang. Martha went crying to her
seat, and the others thought it was on account of her
toothache. Patience kept back her tears. She was forming
a desperate resolution. When recess came, she got
permission to go to the store which was quite near, and
she bought a card of peppermints with the Squire's
sixpence. She had pulled out the palm-leaf strand on her
way, thrusting it into her pocket guiltily. She felt as
if she were committing sacrilege. These sixpences, which
Squire Bean bestowed upon worthy scholars from time to
time, were ostensibly for the purpose of book-marks.
That was the reason for the palm-leaf strand. The Squire
took the sixpences to the blacksmith who stamped them
with B's, and then, with his own hands, he adjusted the
The man who kept the store looked at the sixpence
curiously, when Patience offered it.
"One of the Squire's sixpences!" said he.
"Yes; it's mine." That was the argument which
Patience had set forth to her own conscience. It was
certainly her own sixpence; the Squire had given it to
her—had she not a right to do as she chose with it?
The man laughed; his name was Ezra Tomkins, and he
enjoyed a joke. He was privately resolving to give that
sixpence in change to the old Squire and see what he
would say. If Patience had guessed his thoughts—
But she took the card of peppermints, and carried
them to the appeased and repentant and curious Martha,
and waited further developments in trepidation. She had
a presentiment deep within her childish soul that some
day she would have a reckoning with Squire Bean
concerning his sixpence.
If by chance she had to pass his house, she would
hurry by at her utmost speed lest she be intercepted.
She got out of his way as fast as she could if she spied
his old horse and chaise in the distance. Still she knew
the day would come; and it did.
It was one Saturday afternoon; school did not keep,
and she was all alone in the house with Martha. Her
mother had gone visiting. The two little girls were
playing "Holly Gull, Passed how many," with beans in the
kitchen, when the door opened, and in walked Susan
Elder. She was a woman who lived at Squire Bean's and
helped his wife with the housework.
The minute Patience saw her, she knew what her errand
was. She gave a great start. Then she looked at Susan
Elder with her big frightened eyes.
Susan Elder was a stout old woman. She sat down on
the settle, and wheezed before she spoke. "Squire Bean
wants you to come up to his house right away," said she
Patience trembled all over. "My mother is gone away.
I don't know as she would want me to go," she ventured
"He wants you to come right away," said Susan.
"I don't believe mother'd want me to leave the house
"I'll stay an' rest till you git back; I'd jest as
soon. I'm all tuckered out comin' up the hill."
Patience was very pale. She cast an agonized glance
at Martha. "I spent the Squire's sixpence for those
peppermints," she whispered. She had not told her
Martha looked at her in horror—then she begun to cry.
"Oh! I made you do it," she sobbed.
"Won't you go with me?" groaned Patience.
"One little gal is enough," spoke up Susan Elder. "He
won't like it if two goes."
That settled it. Poor little Patience Mather crept
meekly out of the house and down the hill to Squire
Bean's, without even Martha's foreboding sympathy for
She looked ahead wistfully all the way. If she could
only see her mother coming—but she did not, and there
was Squire Bean's house, square and white and massive,
with great sprawling clumps of white peonies in the
She went around to the back door, and raised a feeble
clatter with the knocker. Mrs. Squire Bean, who was tall
and thin and mild-looking, answered her knock.
"Oh!" said the old lady, "you air the little
Mather-gal, I guess."
Patience shook so she could hardly reply.
"You'd better go right into his room," said Mrs.
Squire Bean, and Patience followed her. She gave her a
little pat when she opened a door on the right. "Don't
you be afeard," said she; "he won't say nothin' to you.
I'll give you a piece of sweet-cake when you come out."
Thus admonished, Patience entered. "Here's the little
Mather-gal," Mrs. Bean remarked; then the door closed
again on her mild old face.
LITTLE PATIENCE OBEYS THE SQUIRE'S SUMMONS.
When Patience first looked at that room, she had a
wild impulse to turn and run. A conviction flashed
through her mind that she could outrun Squire Bean and
his wife easily. In fact, the queer aspect of the room
was not calculated to dispel her nervous terror. Squire
Bean's peculiarities showed forth in the arrangement of
his room, as well as in other ways. His floor was
painted drab, and in the center were the sun and solar
system depicted in yellow. But that six-rayed yellow
sun, the size of a large dinner plate, with its group of
lesser six-rayed orbs as large as saucers, did not
startle Patience as much as the rug beside the Squire's
bed. That was made of a brindle cow-skin with—the horns
on. The little girl's fascinated gaze rested on these
bristling horns and could not tear itself away. Across
the foot of the Squire's bed lay a great iron bar; that
was a housewifely scheme of his own to keep the clothes
well down at the foot. But Patience's fertile
imagination construed it into a dire weapon of
The Squire was sitting at his old cherry desk. He
turned around and looked at Patience sharply from under
his shaggy, overhanging brows.
Then he fumbled in his pocket and brought something
out—it was the sixpence. Then he began talking. Patience
could not have told what he said. Her mind was entirely
full of what she had to say. Somehow she stammered out
the story: how she had been afraid to go to Nancy
Gookin's, and how she had lost the sixpence her uncle
had given her, and how Martha had said she told a fib.
Patience trembled and gasped out the words, and
curtesied, once in a while, when the Squire said
"Come here," said he, when he had sat for a minute or
two, taking in the facts of the case.
To Patience's utter astonishment, Squire Bean was
laughing, and holding out the sixpence.
"Have you got the palm-leaf string?"
"Yes, sir," replied Patience, curtesying.
"Well, you may take this home, and put in the
palm-leaf string, and use it for a marker in your
book—but don't you spend it again."
"No, sir." Patience curtesied again.
"You did very wrong to spend it, very wrong. Those
sixpences are not given to you to spend. But I will
overlook it this once."
The Squire extended the sixpence. Patience took it,
with another dip of her little skirt. Then he turned
around to his desk.
Patience waited a few minutes. She did not know
whether she was dismissed or not. Finally the Squire
begun to add aloud: "Five and five are ten," he said,
"ought, and carry the one."
He was adding a bill. Then Patience stole out softly.
Mrs. Squire Bean was waiting in the kitchen. She gave
her a great piece of plum-cake and kissed her.
"He didn't hurt you any, did he?" said she.
"No, ma'am," said Patience, looking with a bewildered
smile at the sixpence.
That night she tied in the palm-leaf strand again,
and she put the sixpence in her Geography-book, and she
kept it so safely all her life that her
great-grandchildren have seen it.